Your pet needs regular dental care to keep their mouth healthy, and professional veterinary dental examinations and cleanings are the only way to effectively evaluate your pet’s oral health and remove damaging bacteria from under the gum line. Our Red Oak Animal Hospital team wants to ensure you prioritize your pet’s pearly whites, so we answer frequently asked questions about this important topic.

Question: Why is dental care important for my pet?

Answer: A pet’s healthy mouth means the teeth are clean and the gums are attached smoothly to the teeth. When your pet eats, the food particles that are left behind attract bacteria and form plaque, which mineralizes into tartar if not removed. The solid, gritty tartar blocks oxygen from bathing the outer tooth and affects the bacteria that can live around the tooth. This results in many complications, including:

  • Halitosis — The bacteria that cause dental disease often emit sulfur-producing compounds that make your pet’s breath smell bad. 
  • Swollen gums — As plaque accumulates in the gingival sulcus, inflammation causes swollen and bleeding gums.
  • Loose and missing teeth — When the plaque mineralizes to tartar, more serious inflammation destroys the tooth’s structural support and can lead to loose and missing teeth.
  • Fractured jaw bone — In severe cases, especially in cats and miniature dog breeds, the inflammation leads to jaw bone weakening and fracture.
  • Organ damage — Oral bacteria can also seed other body areas and lead to infection in organs such as the heart, liver, and kidneys.

Q: What are dental disease signs in pets?

A: In addition to bad breath, swollen and bleeding gums, and missing teeth, dental disease signs include:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Chronic eye drainage
  • Nasal discharge or chronic sneezing
  • Reluctance to eat
  • Tilting the head while eating
  • Discolored teeth
  • Sudden behavioral change such as aggression or interaction withdrawal

Q: What is involved in a professional veterinary dental cleaning?

A: A thorough examination is key to correctly assessing your pet’s oral health and providing the appropriate care. A professional veterinary dental cleaning involves:

  • Anesthesia — Our veterinary team anesthetizes your pet so we can safely and thoroughly examine their mouth and protect them from unnecessary discomfort and stress. While under anesthesia, a trained veterinary professional stays with your pet to carefully monitor their condition and adjust their anesthetic level, if necessary.
  • Blood work — Since anesthesia is necessary, we perform a complete blood count and biochemistry profile to assess your pet’s overall health status and ensure they are healthy enough to undergo the procedure.
  • X-rays — X-rays are necessary to evaluate the tooth’s supporting structures. A tooth may look perfectly normal, yet X-rays will reveal bacterial damage to the tooth root that can compromise the tooth’s integrity.
  • Examination — Our veterinary team thoroughly assesses your pet’s mouth, and measures gum pocket depth around each tooth with a periodontal probe.
  • Scaling — We use hand and ultrasonic scalers to remove plaque and tartar from your pet’s teeth and from below the gum line.
  • Polishing — Our veterinary team polishes your pet’s teeth to remove the microscopic scratches caused by the scaler, because bacteria will accumulate in these areas and cause future dental problems if the scratches are not removed.
  • Extraction — If a tooth is too damaged to save, we may need to extract the tooth to resolve the infection and alleviate your pet’s discomfort.
  • Charting — Our veterinary team takes meticulous notes on each tooth, so we can track your pet’s dental health.

Q: How frequently should my pet have a professional veterinary dental cleaning?

A: Most adult pets should have a professional veterinary dental cleaning about once a year, but pets at high risk for dental disease, such as miniature breed dogs and brachycephalic pets, may need more frequent cleanings. Our veterinary team can help you determine how frequently your pet needs their teeth cleaned.

Q: How can I help promote my pet’s dental health?

A: At-home dental care cannot compare with a professional veterinary dental cleaning, but you can—and should—take steps to promote your pet’s dental health. Steps include:

  • Daily toothbrushing — Brushing your pet’s teeth daily removes plaque between professional dental cleanings. Pets tend to adjust better to toothbrushing if you go slowly and get them used to their mouth being handled. Ensure you use pet friendly dental products, since human toothpaste can be toxic to pets, and use a small, soft toothbrush that won’t hurt your pet’s gums.
  • Dental treats — A daily dental chew can significantly reduce plaque and tartar. Choose products approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) to ensure they are effective.
  • Dental diets — Dental diets include large kibble pieces that your pet must chew before swallowing. They are also high in fiber, which means the pieces don’t shatter when chewed, allowing the tooth to enter the kibble piece and removing the plaque. 

Dental care is an important part of your pet’s health care routine. If you would like to schedule a professional veterinary dental cleaning, contact our Red Oak Animal Hospital team, so we can ensure their mouth is healthy and squeaky clean.